Energy and weatherizing programs cut costs
As skiers celebrate the arrival of snow, Northern Nevada homeowners may react with less enthusiasm to the higher heating bills that often accompany winter’s cooler temperatures. For people interested in weatherizing and improving the energy efficiency of their homes, various programs, rebates, energy audits and other do-it-yourself options are available, including a new program funded by the state of Nevada.
On Nov. 17, the Governor’s Office of Energy launched a new Direct Energy Assistance Loan (DEAL) program, which offers interest-free loans of up to $6,000 to state employees who want to make energy efficiency upgrades. In this program, an energy auditor visits the home of the applicant and recommends weatherization and energy efficiency improvements. Eligible measures include window replacement or repair, attic or floor insulation, furnace replacements, water heater replacements, programmable thermostat installation, and more. Loans must be paid back within five years.
“This is just for state employees, but it’s a pilot program that could be duplicated with other entities in Nevada,” said information aide Scott Kelley. “We’re hoping we can show that this is a successful program that universities and other city and county governments will consider possibly doing as well.”
A second Office of Energy program called Home Energy Retrofit Opportunities for Seniors (HEROS) launched a year ago, and has now provided assistance with weatherizing and energy efficiency measures for 175 low-income seniors across the state, saving each household an average of $804 per year in utility bills. Rather than administering loans like the DEAL program, improvements made under the HEROS program are paid for outright by the state. The HEROS program is open to the general public, though participants must be at least 60 years of age and meet certain other eligibility criteria.
Homeowners who aren’t eligible for either state program can still hire an energy auditor to assess the energy efficiency of their home. A visit from an energy auditor costs an average of $600 to $1200, according to Sierra Green Builders owner Paul Taylor. An air seal test can help to identify places where holes and cracks let air in or out, which is especially helpful on older homes. The auditor will recommend changes that the homeowner can make, and if the changes are made, Taylor says that future savings in energy bills will eventually make up for the cost of the initial investment.
“You can get the audit, but without doing the work, you don’t get the money back. So don’t start without finishing,” Taylor cautioned.
Even without hiring an energy auditor, Taylor says that there are plenty of do-it-yourself actions that homeowners can take to reduce energy bills during the winter. Replacing regular light bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which are subsidized through NV Energy’s Energy Star LED Lighting program, is one easy and cost-effective measure that can lead to savings of $135 over the life of the bulb. To find discounted bulbs, look for bulbs with a bright green sticker that says “LED discounts provided by NV Energy” at hardware and home improvement stores.
Taylor also recommends checking around doors for drafts, and replacing weather-stripping as necessary. In homes with a garage, insulating the garage door can be a huge help in preventing heat-loss as well.